At this time of year, all sorts of blog articles make their way onto the internet with advice for the next 12 months.
Our blog is different.
We’re also taking cognisance of the new beginning January provides, but our purpose is to share a strategy that will pay dividends your whole working life.
Understand how to leverage the power of career networking and dream jobs could be yours for far longer than the next year.
What networking really means
No matter how powerful networking may be (and it really is), its misleading reputation still puts many people off. Too often, networking is associated with sleazy events, stilted conversations and forcing your business card into other people’s hands.
For introverts, or anyone with an iota of self-respect and respect for others, this is the stuff of nightmares. The combative nature of what many people think networking is can be intimidating. Yet, introverts often extract the most value from networking once they understand how to make it work for them.
Thankfully in recent years, the idea of what networking is has taken on new meaning. The launch of LinkedIn in May 2003 placed professional online networking very much in the limelight and offered a new way to connect with like-minded professionals.
But whether you’re networking online or offline, a few basic principles remain the same.
“Stop committing random acts of networking”
Kelly Hoey is an author, speaker and globally recognised networking expert. She regularly presents insights at various conferences throughout the world on how to network better. In 2017, she presented in Dublin at Inspirefest.
Originally qualifying as a lawyer, and following an established career path until a chance opportunity in 2009 propelled her to new, unexpected and exciting heights, Kelly is a living example of what strategic networking can do for an individual.
Strategic being the operative word here. Hence Kelly’s now famous trademark advice to “stop committing random acts of networking”.
Essentially, what this means is to be intentional in how you network. And it’s in this refreshing approach to networking that the old misconception of what it means to connect falls away.
Kelly talks a lot about how networking is a far broader practice than most of us think it is.
In fact, every engagement we make is networking; not (just) sending a connection request via an online platform or handing out your business card at an event. When you think of networking like this, you realise that networking with intention simply means building strong, authentic and personal connections with people.
Kelly goes into detail about what these engagements can include in her book Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World. Three examples of these are:
- Your email signature. We all have the odd whinge about our inboxes, and occasionally with good reason. Statista estimates that 347 billion emails will be sent daily worldwide by 2022. Nobody’s denying that email overwhelm is real, but email also offers us an opportunity to connect with people multiple times in a day. Great examples of email signatures can be found here.
- Your headshot. Does your headshot really convey approachability and your personality, or is it a standard, cookie-cutter pic? Another aspect to consider is where you use your headshot. In a professional setting, most of us will think this is only LinkedIn. But your headshot could also appear on your email address, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Is your headshot the right definition (pixels) for each platform, or is it blurry and unclear? Poor headshots don’t only look unprofessional, they’re also harming your networking opportunities.
- Using LinkedIn well. Although LinkedIn is one of the mainstream tech behemoths, it still represents an untapped opportunity for many (most) professionals. However, most people on the platform use it purely as a directory. They create a profile... and that’s it. A slightly more engaged cohort may like and share content that they find useful and informative on the site. But the latest statistics show that out of 250 million active users on the professional social media platform, just 3 million people actively create new content on LinkedIn. That is 1.2% of LinkedIn users actually leveraging the potential of LinkedIn for their professional goals. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the balance of 98.8% of the other users are acting much more like bystanders than active participants on the platform. Use these tactics to use LinkedIn to your advantage.
The importance of career networking
It’s understandable that career networking will be top of mind when you’re looking for a new role. But, to really gain the most from it, you should include career networking in your daily life. Practise it continuously and it becomes another skill that pays dividends as you climb the ladder and search for new opportunities.
Career networking embraces all of the networks you have in your life to assist you with your professional goals. These could be personal, family, academic or professional communities that you’re a member of.
In 2017, LinkedIn released the findings of a study they ran on the value of networking. The headline finding was that “80% of professionals consider professional networking to be important to career success.''
Other findings include:
- 35% of professionals surveyed in the LinkedIn study stated that a casual interaction on LinkedIn has resulted in new opportunities for them
- 61% of professionals in the study agree that consistent engagement and interaction on LinkedIn can lead to new job opportunities
The idea is to build strong relationships with people and maintain those connections as you grow in your career. Even at the very early stages of your career, the network you could tap into could be way bigger than you initially think:
- Your co-workers; both current and in the past
- Your line managers; also both current and in the past
- Academic lectures and mentors
- Fellow alumni
Enjoy the additional benefits that come with career networking
Since it’s the start of a new year, our post has focused on the value networking can have in helping you achieve the career of your dreams. And there’s no doubt that networking is one of the strongest ways to land the job of your dreams.
Even better though is the fact that networking comes with many other ancillary benefits.
- Growth in your self-confidence
- Growth in the status you enjoy among your peers
- Access to a wider pool of ideas
- A raise in your own profile
- Development of your emotional and creative intelligence
- Support from mentors and champions
Remember the old adage that “no (hu)man is an island”? Well, it turns out that the saying holds a lot of truth. There’s no denying that anyone with a stellar career has not achieved it on their own. Instead, their success in large part is thanks to the wider network that they nurtured and leveraged as they took each step to greater heights in their career.
You can enjoy the same advantages. Think seriously about what networking could do for you, and what you can offer in return to the individuals you make connections with. It’s when you build a win/win network for yourself and others that the magic really starts to happen.